First and foremost, I am SO grateful for my life.
I am grateful for the ups and downs because it means that I am LIVING.
T E N years ago today, I waved a white flag (figuratively but totally would have waved one, literally) and surrendered.
The descriptions that I have today, the epiphanies, the language is because of WORK that I have done over the last decade. I did not know any of this when I first started. I tell you this because if you are at the beginning of your journey and feeling like you will never be where I am, that is not the case.
You can be... if you DO the work.
T E N
10 years ago, I had enough.
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and the epiphany that I DID have was that I was the common denominator in all of my misery and suffering.
I had NO idea what to do or where to turn and I wasn't too keen on asking for help... because if I did, then you would see that it was all a house of cards and I wasn't too sure I was ready for it to all come crashing down.
On March 5th, I phoned a friend to see if he wanted to go to church. I wasn't a church go-er but I figured God or someone in the church would know what to do with my misery. My friend suggested we go to HIS church. I agreed.
I went to work, went home, had two glasses of wine so that I could get through "church" and set out to what was, inevitably, an AA meeting. I had a bottle of Saki after the meeting.
The next morning, however, I called my friend and left him a message: "I think I have a problem." He called me back and asked me "what kind of problem do you think you have?"... that was March 6, 2009.
TOP 10 Things I have gained in recovery:
1. Self Worth:
I loathed myself. My inner critic was HORRIBLE. After some time and effort, the things that I say to myself have become kinder, more compassionate and understanding. This did NOT happen over night. But I am grateful for the awareness and the power of the two words "I AM". What follows those two words colors the lens in which I see myself and others.
For myself and others. True love. Unconditional love. Not the grasping, clinging, needing kind. The kind that fills one's soul. The kind that is so beautiful that sometimes words cannot do it justice. The kind that is forgiving, gentle and flexible.
For my body. For my heart. For my mental wellness. I abused ALL of these while I using. And the more the abuse continued, the more I used so I didn't have to look at the destructive behavior. It was a cyclical shame storm that almost killed me.
I am not sure I even knew this word 10 years ago. Boundaries are BEAUTIFUL. They assure my body, heart and mind that I care about them and their well being. It also means that I care about yours, too. Because not only did I not have personal boundaries but I certainly did not care about nor pay attention to yours.
I think I would vomit if I thought about how much money I spent on booze and outfits to go out in to drink the booze. Additionally, the amount of money I spent on buying other people drinks so that I would be liked. UGH. It's gross just thinking about it. Additionally, I was just plain financially irresponsible. And the stress of money gave me additional "permission" to use...
Yes! I couldn't sit down and read a book for the life of me. My mind was SPINNING all the time and I couldn't just be still and read. If I went on a vacation, I would drink and read...kind of. And then not remember what I read and then beat myself up for not being able to read. (I was a voracious reader as a kid and so this was something I shamed myself for.). The reading and being still did NOT come back right away. It was years. I think my 3rd year in sobriety, I started meditating and reading a bit more. It wasn't until my 4th year of sobriety that I could read text books without having to stop every three pages.
THANK GOODNESS! I really do NOT know how I survived lack of sleep. I always prided myself on only needing 5 hours of sleep. I am VERY SURE that I wasn't sleeping that much. It took a while for me to get back to homeostasis. I would wake up in a panic, sweating, toss and turn, grind my teeth. It was not fun. Today, I need 7 hours and most nights I get that and if not, I have healthier techniques to get rest.
Emotional regulation and coping skills, to be specific. I somehow missed out on these concepts when I was growing up. Mostly, because I spent a LOT of time PRETENDING that I knew stuff, PRETENDING that I was ok. PRETENDING that being chased home everyday in 7th grade was FINE. PRETENDING that being called names and picked on everyday in 8th grade was no big deal. PRETENDING that not fitting in didn't bother me. PRETENDING that I didn't realize that I didn't fit in. It was exhausting and soul crushing. I have learned how emotional regulation, awareness and other coping skills are things we need as humans and integral to our mental wellness.
9. My Voice:
I wasn't silent for 39 years but most of the time I was trying to fit in. I desperately wanted to be liked. So, if you were a democrat, so was I. If you were pro-life, me too. If you were outraged by Cindy Whosit, I had your back. Again, exhausting. I still remember the day I realized I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I valued and what I believed in. It was a difficult realization. Today, I have a firm grasp on who I am, my values, beliefs, what is sacred, what I need...I also know that nothing is fixed nor finite. I will continue to evolve and that is no longer scary but rather, exciting.
10. My Life:
I don't know how I didn't die. I put myself at risk SO many times... especially that last two years before I got sober. I am grateful for my marriage and my beautiful son. I am grateful for the beautiful, honest and authentic relationships that I have. I am grateful for a career for which I can give back and be of service.
I accept and acknowledge who I am today. I don't have a need to "fit in" or "get along".
The challenges, joys, highs, lows, loss, gains, pain, pleasure...all of it lets me know that I am LIVING.
What I want you to know about my addiction/substance use disorder:
*I didn't wake up at 15 and decide that I was going to use alcohol and then drugs to cope with my anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
*I didn't know that alcohol is ethanol and is poison to your body and that a hangover is an ethanol overdose.
*I didn't know that trauma, unresolved, stores in the body.
*I didn't know that shame and guilt were SO powerful.
*I didn't know that my pattern of use actually changed my brain structure.
*I didn't know that I was hurting myself.
*I didn't know that the depression I felt was because of the alcohol.
*I didn't know that 4 drinks would take me 96 hours to recover from (physically).
*I didn't know that my family of origin was suffering.
*I didn't know how to ask for help once I realized that I wasn't well.
*I didn't know that I could die from alcohol withdrawal.
*I didn't know that drugs and booze weren't the problem.
*I didn’t know that I had no coping skills or the tools to self regulate.
What I do know now is that it was not my fault. But it has been my responsibility to get well.
Recovery comes in MANY forms. Today, there are SO many options if you want to get help.
In and Outpatient Recovery Centers:
Pacifica Recovery Centers
If you got this far, thank you for reading.
Please know my "door" is always open. If you or a loved one need a referral or have a question, I will do my very best to help.
Recovery is an inside job... but we need community to thrive.